Opening Day 2008
President Ray Di Pasquale
Opening Day – Aug. 29, 2008
State of the College Report
Welcome to the start of the 44th academic year of the Community College of Rhode Island. Opening Day is always a day of excitement and anticipation as we get ready to welcome thousands of students to our campuses and we share stories of our summer adventures with our colleagues.
Opening Day is a time for us to celebrate the character, passion and commitment of our CCRI family who have given extraordinary service to the college and its students.
These are difficult times in our state and the daily headlines confirm that we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the early 1990s. There is no easy fix, and difficult issues need to be addressed in order to make our economy more competitive.
As you know, public higher education in the state has been hit particularly hard. Unfortunately, 45 of our colleagues have already been impacted by the state economy and have chosen to retire, and still more will leave by the end of September.
The management team has given extraordinary thought and deliberation into formulating a plan that will carry us through this difficult period. It means that we have to work harder and concentrate on the critical areas of our mission: “to offer recent high school graduates and returning adults the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for intellectual, professional and personal growth through an array of academic, career and lifelong learning programs.”
As I mentioned earlier, this has been a big year for retirements and I want to take this opportunity to commend and recognize our esteemed retirees who have provided such valuable service to the Community College of Rhode Island. How about this statistic: This group of retirees has provided more than 1,250 years of service to the community college!
About two weeks ago, I asked the college community to share with me the highlights of how you spent your summer vacation. As always, I am overwhelmed by your initiative in search of information to share with your students and your colleagues. You have been to Iceland, Honduras, India and Peru. You have traveled throughout the country to Indiana, Arizona and Texas. You’ve studied human cadavers and you’ve provided medical care for those in need.
While I would love to read all of these wonderful stories this morning, due to time constraints, I will read just a few. All of these experiences also will be available on the Office of the President’s Web site.
- Teresa Squizzero, chair of the Administrative Office Technology Department, Susie Swenson, retired chair of the Music Department, and Kathy Gazzola, chair of the Dental Health Department, received teaching excellence awards from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. Our three awardees were recognized at a celebration honoring more than 1,300 faculty staff and administrators from across the country in Austin, Texas.
- English professor Carla White achieved her lifelong dream this summer. She traveled to Lima, Peru, to volunteer in the poverty-stricken town of La Victoria. Carla said, “I’ve had a life-changing experience and feel that it not only has benefited me as a person but it will also benefit my diverse students here at CCRI – especially my ESL students!”
- Karen Kortz of the Physics Department and co-coordinator of our Honors Program, has been recognized with the “Biggs Award” for excellence in teaching geology. She will attend the 2008 Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Houston, Texas, this October to receive the honor. She is only the second instructor from a community college to receive this award. We are proud of you, Karen!
- Biology professor Tricia Wilhelm presented software that she helped to develop at the national meeting of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society. Tricia also spent two weeks this summer working in the Gross Morphology Laboratory at Brown’s Medical School dissecting human cadavers. What she learned will help her teach CCRI’s Human Anatomy course.
- Robin Connell, professor of nursing, went on a two-week medical mission to Honduras with her colleague Diane Gerzevitz, a professor in the Nurse Practitioner program at URI, and four of her students. In one location they helped about 500 patients. She described her experience as “memorable and insightful.”
- Wenda Ferraioli, our student health services nurse, also traveled to Honduras. While her teenage daughters helped build a house for a family, she worked with a doctor from her church in a medical clinic. Wenda said, “I gave education on parasite prevention and also gave out hundreds of toothbrushes with toothpaste and other hygiene supplies, which were donated by many staff and students in the CCRI community.”
Congratulations to everyone who submitted stories and thank you for
sharing these wonderful summer accomplishments.
Institutional issues and initiatives
I would now like to briefly highlight several institutional initiatives and preview some of the things we will be working on this year.
As we presented at the Board of Governors meeting in August, the financial impact of the state budget on our college has been severe. We have a budget shortfall of $5.5 million that has been somewhat offset by a tuition increase, thus reducing the deficit to $2.6 million.
We have more than 100 vacant positions and we continue to delay filling positions unless open positions are critical to the education process.
Unfortunately, state revenue estimates for this year appear to have been overly optimistic. In all likelihood, we will take another budget cut at mid-year and are planning for a mid-year tuition increase.
State appropriation to CCRI has fallen to a new low of 51 percent of total revenue from a high of 72 percent just 20 years ago. In that same time span, tuition as a share of our total revenue has climbed to 44 percent of our total revenue from 25 percent. And the trend is not good. Higher education is the solution to Rhode Island’s economic woes; it is not part of the problem. We need the state’s leaders to invest in higher education!
We need to find ways to work together as a team to cut costs from our budget. I need your help. We will get through this, but it is going to take a full and dedicated effort by faculty and staff to deliver a quality education to our students.
Fall enrollment is steady. As of this morning, we have enrolled
16,911 students, and this number is increasing daily. At this point, we
have surpassed last year’s registered total of 16,811 students, and we
also have seen an increase in the total number of credit hours in which
our students are enrolled this year. I would like to give special thanks
to our Office of Enrollment Services staff members who have been working
so hard during this late registration period.
Also this fall, we are expanding our Westerly satellite campus offerings this fall to 26 classes and adding an additional night, Thursday, to enable more students to take classes closer to home. About 30 local residents attended an open house on Aug. 7 at our satellite site at Westerly Middle School. Enrollment at the satellite increased by 63 percent following the open house, and several classes are at full enrollment.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Advising and Counseling and in the Office of Admissions and Records, as well as folks in other areas of student services, who have been extremely busy enrolling students. Sometimes this is not easy work and they are to be applauded for their efforts. Congratulations to all!
Bill LeBlanc also has provided me with more good news. As part of his
survey of the class of 2007 for the Career Placement Report, he added a
new question: “How would you rate the quality of your CCRI education?”
The response was overwhelmingly positive, as 98.2 percent of the more than 900 students responding selected either “good,” “very good” or “excellent.”
I charged the NEASC team on May 20 with the task of preparing CCRI’s five-year report that is due to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges on Jan. 15, 2009.
Under the leadership of Vice President of Academic Affairs Lela Morgan, the team has been working diligently throughout the summer.
The five-year report involves providing an update on each of the 11 standards that constitute the basis on which colleges are reviewed for accreditation as well as addressing three areas of special emphasis or concerns from recent NEASC visits. These areas include: planning and governance, faculty evaluation and meeting the general education requirements for degree programs.
More than 20 representatives from CCRI’s faculty and staff have done wonderful work and I applaud their efforts. If you would like to know more about this project or join one of the teams, please contact Vice President Morgan.
The college’s strategic planning process is well under way, and dozens of members of the four subcommittees met recently to report on their considerable progress.
The four subcommittees are hard at work, each examining a key operational question: What students will we teach?; What will our students learn?; What resources will we need?; and How will we measure success?
The work of these four committees has been impressive, to put it mildly, and we are well on track to present our plan for review by the campus community no later than November for implementation in January. I’m extremely confident we’ll be ready by our timetable.
Kate Dunnigan reports that the Governance Committee is in the process of establishing procedures for collegewide elections to Governance Councils that will be held this fall. We encourage you to place your name in nomination and participate in the new system as we roll it out this semester. Right now, everyone is invited to visit the website to see the ratified plan. In October more specific information will be available on the site on how to get involved in the process.
The Marketing and Communications group has done some outstanding work over the summer to include the publication of a new viewbook and the creation of a new ad campaign.
The viewbook will be distributed to prospective students and I will be using it in the community. The publication provides an overview of the college and speaks of the advantages that students have should they choose to attend the community college. A few examples of information included in the viewbook: CCRI facts at a glance; brief descriptions of our programs of study, facilities, faculty, student services and athletics, to name a few; success stories; and how to apply to CCRI.
Marketing and Communications has also unveiled a new ad campaign for enrollment for the 2008-09 academic year. The new fleet of four ads features our successful graduates and builds on the theme of “Change your life. Achieve your dreams.”
Three ads in the series focus on successful graduates of our business and fine arts programs, as well as talented student-athletes who have transferred to compete at four-year institutions. The fourth ad features employers of graduates from our health care programs.
The department established an aggressive distribution plan for the ads to reach its intended market – prospective students, their parents and business leaders.
Over the course of five weeks, the ads are appearing in 25 daily and
weekly newspapers around the state of Rhode Island, targeting the
readership of 39 cities and towns, as well as members of the state’s
In addition, the print campaign was reinforced by professionally produced radio spots that highlight the “Change your life. Achieve your dreams” theme. The spots flooded the airwaves in August on select stations that appeal to our target markets.
Since the launch of the CCRI page on Facebook this spring, more than 400 people have become fans. The page has been growing steadily with an average of 10 to 15 fans joining daily and CCRI now boasts the highest number of fans out of all community colleges that have a presence on Facebook.
Here’s an interesting statistic: Fifty percent of CCRI’s fans are between the ages of 18 and 24 and 23 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34.
The CCRI page offers opportunities to target potential students and increase enrollment, boost our fund-raising efforts and create and maintain meaningful connections with members of our community at no financial cost.
An information session is being planned to explain to members of the campus community how to create a profile and join the CCRI page.
More institutional initiatives
We are excited that we are once again able to offer preschool services for our students, faculty and staff at the Warwick campus this fall. Imagine Preschool will open on Tuesday and has been holding open houses throughout the summer to introduce families to the facilities. If you’re interested in enrolling your child, visit the preschool’s information table in the Great Hall or drop by Room 1154 for more information. Our students, faculty and staff will be given priority enrollment status.
New brand for Lifelong Learning
Earlier this year, we embarked on a rebranding effort for our Division for Lifelong Learning. As you may know, Lifelong Learning serves 31,000 Rhode Islanders every year in a variety of programs from workforce training to personal enrichment. But its name didn’t reflect the breadth of services the division provides.
We wanted the new name to better communicate the division’s important role in the state’s economy. By providing the state’s work force with vital training opportunities, it became clear that the word “workforce” was key. But we are also a community resource through our continuing education arm, so the new name must reflect that, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to share with you the new name and logo that will replace Lifelong Learning: The Center for Workforce and Community Education.
Over time and through marketing, we hope the business community and the public will come to refer to us as “The Center” – their first stop when seeking workforce training or continuing education. We are excited about this new identity for this important division of our college.
I am also pleased to announce that the Warwick café will see a new look.
In addition to new signage and minor renovations, menu offerings will be totally revamped. You will enjoy offerings from the new:
- Cook-to-order station
- Fresh grilled panini station
- Hot and toasty subs
- Hand tossed salads
- Fresh baked rolls
- New breakfast pastry and sandwich offerings
I began my presentation today by talking about the difficult financial environment we are operating in. As a president of an institution that has seen enormous change over the past three years, it is somewhat discouraging that our progress may be slowed down. However, as I’m reminded every day, tremendous progress continues to be made: student morale and enrollment is exceeding our expectations; our faculty and staff are engaged in initiatives that will exceed the requirements of NEASC; and we have an administrative organization that is one of the finest in our history.
We will continue to have challenges, but we have met these tough
challenges before, and there is every indication that we will do so once
again. In fact there is a feeling that we will emerge from this
financial crisis even stronger.
We are all part of the team and have ownership and I look forward to working with all of you to meet these challenges. But as I said a year ago, we can do anything together. Thank you and have a great semester.